No Labels Meeting

For all of my GA subscribers, we had a great local meeting last night for No Labels.  We are really starting to get some traction with this movement.  For those of you unfamiliar with what we’re doing, go check out www.nolabels.org.  We are a group of Republicans, Democrats and Independents that are trying to put an end to the hyper-partisanship in Congress and get them working together again for the benefit of our country.  Check it out!

For more info on last night’s event, check out this post by a fellow blogger from That’s Just Peachyhttp://thatsjustpeachy.com/thatsjustpeachyroundtable/?p=214.  He gave us some good press for the event.  Hopefully we can get some more people out for future meetings.  We do them once per month so if you live in Metro Atlanta, and are interested, please let me know.

Also, please like us on our new Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/#!/NoLabelsGa.  Thanks!

A Case For Why You Shouldn’t Trust Your Own Political Party

This is a great article I just found in Bloomberg about the importance of doing your own research on some hot button issues instead of just trusting politicians to lead you the right way – http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-23/why-voters-shouldn-t-trust-their-own-political-party-ezra-klein.html

If you don’t take the time to determine the history on many of these issues you might be apt to vote for someone that once was for the very things they are against now.  If that issue is important to you then you should take the time to figure where they always stood on the issue and determine whether they are apt to change their minds as soon as the political winds change yet again.

The Ever Dwindling Social Security Trust Fund

This is a sobering article about the future of the Social Security Trust Fund – http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/02/14/social-security-is-failing-even-faster-than-we-thought/?icid=maing-grid10%7Chtmlws-main-bb%7Cdl7%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D136039

By the time Gen X and Y hit retirement it looks like we’ll be getting about 3/4 of the amount people are receiving now.  Factoring in inflation, that means we’ll have roughly enough every month to fill up the gas tank and buy some groceries.  If you’re not putting away at least 10% of your income into an investment earning a rate of 3% or greater you will be in trouble.

Unless, of course, you plan to work until the day you die.  In which case, don’t worry about it.

The Dodd/Frank Act

Both Gingrich and Romney have said that if they were elected president the first thing they would do is to repeal the Dodd/Frank act.  Do you agree that this is the right thing to do?  I have attached to this message a link to an easy to read flowchart of the biggest provisions from the Dodd/Frank act from Bloomberg’s Business Week.  You be the judge.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/doddfrank-in-one-graph-01122012-gfx.html

I’ve gone through the list and can’t see anything about this Act that I don’t like but maybe I’m missing something.  If you can find something negative in there that is worth it’s repeal then please share it with me.

Susan G. Komen Reverses Controversial Decision

In case you’ve been living under a rock this past week then you know about Susan G. Komen’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood because they were under investigation.  Approximately $600,000 a year was donated for the purposes of doing mamograms to try to catch cases of breast cancer early.

The backlash that followed was tremendous and, thanks to the many people that rallied on the behalf of these very important Planned Parenthood screenings, they were able to get Susan G. Komen to reverse their decision today.  Congratulations to everyone that fought the good fight.  Many women’s lives were saved thanks to your efforts.

Here is what Susan G. Komen founder, Nancy Brinker, had to say.

We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.

The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.

Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.

Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.

It is our hope and we believe it is time for everyone involved to pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women. We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue. We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics – anyone’s politics.

Starting this afternoon, we will have calls with our network and key supporters to refocus our attention on our mission and get back to doing our work. We ask for the public’s understanding and patience as we gather our Komen affiliates from around the country to determine how to move forward in the best interests of the women and people we serve.

We extend our deepest thanks for the outpouring of support we have received from so many in the past few days and we sincerely hope that these changes will be welcomed by those who have expressed their concern.

No Budget – No Pay Takes Next Step

It looks like the No Budget – No Pay Bill will be actually be moving forward to get a hearing in the Senate on March 7.  Considering less than 15% of all bills before the 112th Congress have been given a hearing this is nothing short of remarkable.

For those of you unfamiliar with the bill it basically states that unless Congress passes a budget they don’t get paid.  Seems easy enough but when you figure that a budget hasn’t been passed for three years by Congress then it becomes more significant.  The only thing they have been passing is stopgap measures to keep the government open and to raise the debt ceiling.  Many of those votes come with some contentious debate attached which slows the process down even more.  So this bill will basically hold them accountable for passing an actual budget and, if they don’t, they don’t get paid.  Seems fair, right?  Now let’s see if they will actually vote for it.

For more information check out this link from NoLabels, the group behind the bill – http://nolabels.org/blog/no-budget-no-pay-takes-next-step

No Labels Plan to Make Congress Work

I’ve recently discovered a group called No Labels that I think very highly of.  They are made up of members of both parties and their primary purpose is to end the hyper-partisanship taking place in Washington and fix the problems with our highly disfunctional Legistlative branch of government.  Here’s the plan, and it’s a damn good one:

Make Congress Work is No Labels’ first grassroots campaign to effect real change in our government.

At a time when our nation faces immense challenges, the American people have never had less faith in the ability of Congress to do anything about them.

This problem couldn’t be more serious – because if Congress is broken, so is the United States of America.

Every law addressing any substantial issue has to go through Congress first. That means if we want a better tax code, a balanced budget, a better immigration system or more effective educational and energy policies, we first need to fix our broken Congress.

No Labels believes the biggest problem with Congress is not necessarily the people in it. It’s the outdated rules, procedures and traditions that govern the institution and make it impossible for anything to get done. Congress has become a place where even good, talented people get dragged down by a broken system. But if the rules of Congress change, we can make our government work again.

Our dozen proposals to Make Congress Work mostly don’t require new laws or any new spending, and they don’t favor any party or particular cause. These are simple, straightforward proposals to break gridlock, promote constructive discussion and reduce polarization in Congress. They can be adopted, almost all at once, when the next Congress convenes in January 2013.

Throughout 2012, No Labels will conduct an intensive grassroots campaign to mobilize 1 million people behind our action plan to Make Congress Work again.

[Click here to view a pdf of our Make Congress Work booklet]

Breaking Gridlock

  1. No Budget, No Pay: Congress rarely passes spending bills on time, which makes it virtually impossible for members to intelligently consider why they are spending taxpayer dollars in the first place. No Labels Solution: If Congress can’t make spending and budget decisions on time, they shouldn’t get paid on time either.
  2. Up or Down Vote on Presidential Appointments: The Senate now routinely holds up critical presidential appointments to the Cabinet and the courts for purely political reasons. No Labels Solution: All appointees should receive an up or down vote within 90 days of their name being sent to the Senate. If deadline is not met, the nominee would be confirmed by default.
  3. Filibuster Reform: Constant use of the filibuster has ground the Senate to a halt. One reason the filibuster is used so often is that senators don’t even have to show up on the floor to explain themselves anymore. No Labels Solution: Our filibuster fix is based on a simple idea: If senators want to filibuster legislation, they should actually have to publicly explain why. Also, filibusters can be used to prevent a bill from reaching the floor for debate (motions to proceed). Eliminating the filibuster for motions to proceed would allow more issues to be debated and voted on by the whole Senate.
  4. Empower the Sensible Majority: Good legislation that is supported by a sensible bipartisan majority often isn’t even debated because congressional leaders or committee chairs see political benefit in keeping Democrats and Republicans at one another’s throats. No Labels Solution: House and Senate rules should be reformed to make it easier for a bipartisan majority to bring legislation to the House or Senate floor over the objection of party leaders.
  5. Make Members Come to Work: Part of the reason why Congress can’t get much done is that they’re not showing up in the halls of the Senate or House more than a few days a week due to constant fundraising and trips home. No Labels Solution: Congress could get more done if they actually came to their offices in the capital. The House and Senate should be in Washington, DC for three weeks in any given month. The House and Senate should also have five-day work weeks and they should be in session at the same time.

Promoting Constructive Discussion

  1. Question Time for the President: Leaders in Washington rarely debate one another anymore, choosing instead to just talk past one another through the media. No Labels Solution: America should take a cue from the British Parliament’s regular questioning of the prime minister to create question time for the president and Congress.
  2. Fiscal Report to Congress: Hear it. Read it. Sign it: Perhaps the chief obstacle to fixing America’s finances is that no one agrees what’s really on our balance sheet. When leaders in Washington debate our budget, they routinely use different baselines, projections and assumptions, which tend to conveniently support whatever policy they are pushing at the moment. The No Labels Solution: Every year, a nonpartisan leader, such as the comptroller general, should deliver a fiscal update that must be signed off on by our senior political leaders, just as CEOs are required to affirm the accuracy of their company’s financial reporting.

Reducing Polarization

  1. No Pledge but the Oath of Office: One of the biggest barriers to solving problems in Congress is that many members literally sign away their ability to legislate with repeated pledges to narrow interest groups. The No Labels Solution: It’s time to cut the puppet strings that allow narrow interest groups to control members of Congress. Members should make no pledge but the pledge of allegiance and their formal oath of office.
  2. Monthly Bipartisan Gatherings: Democrats and Republicans in Congress rarely socialize or even meet with members of the other party anymore. Like any workplace, Congress depends on good human relationships to function. When there are no relationships, there is dysfunction. The No Labels Solution: To get members talking to one another, both the House and Senate should institute monthly bipartisan gatherings.
  3. Bipartisan Seating: More often than not, seating in Congress resembles boys and girls at a middle school dance, with each side keeping an (un)comfortable distance from one another. The No Labels Solution: It’s time to curb the cliques in Congress. At all joint meetings or sessions of Congress, each member should be seated next to at least one member of the other party.
  4. Bipartisan Leadership Committee: In today’s Congress, almost every meeting or get-together is partisan, with legislative problem-solving taking a back seat to discussion of how to stick it to the other side. The No Labels Solution: Congressional party leaders should form a bipartisan congressional leadership committee as a forum for discussing both legislative agendas and substantive solutions.
  5. No Negative Campaigns Against Incumbents: When incumbent members of Congress from one party negatively campaign against the incumbents from the other party, it destroys the trust necessary to work together. The No Labels Solution: Incumbents from one party should not conduct negative campaigns against incumbents from the opposing party. That means no appearing in negative ads, no signing nasty direct mail letters and no traveling to an incumbent’s district or state to play attack dog. Members would, of course, be free to campaign or fundraise in support of candidates from their party.